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Newbie's information to bank cards, miles and factors

Signing up for bank cards by way of companion hyperlinks earns us a fee. Phrases apply to the provides listed on this web page. Right here’s our full promoting coverage.

Signing up for bank cards by way of companion hyperlinks earns us a fee. Phrases apply to the provides listed on this web page. Right here’s our full promoting coverage.

So, you need to journey the world for pennies on the greenback? You’ve come to the appropriate place. Right here at Million Mile Secrets and techniques we will present you the fundamentals of find out how to get (almost) free flights and resort stays to make journey extra inexpensive for everybody.

Everybody can use airline and resort loyalty factors to journey without cost. Our group has earned and redeemed tens of millions of airline miles and resort factors – most of which we earned with out flying in planes or staying in lodges.

Airways and resort chains had been among the many first industries to supply loyalty bonuses and memberships to their members – usually within the type of frequent flyer miles and elite standing. Loyalty applications won’t appear worthwhile to many of us as a result of they don’t e-book paid journey greater than a few instances per 12 months.

However the insane great thing about miles and factors is that touring for (nearly) free is inside attain for nearly anybody with a credit score rating (good, dangerous and even ugly) and a willingness to be taught. This half could appear daunting – so we created this useful freshmen information to get you began.

I can present you the ropes of incomes, redeeming and having fun with factors and miles.

Factors and miles open a world of journey alternatives. (Photograph by Ruslan Pysarenko / Shutterstock)

What are factors and miles?

Let's make clear some phrases that will probably be useful for any newbie. The primary lesson is that factors and miles are kind of phrases for a similar factor – some unit of forex that an organization has utilized to its rewards program. American Airways makes use of AAdvantage Miles whereas the Hilton resort chain makes use of Hilton Honors factors. The phrases are kind of equal (with miles extra historically related to frequent flyer miles and lodges linked with factors), however the worth of factors and miles differs significantly.

(Photograph by Wyatt Smith)

Maybe essentially the most helpful (and sometimes helpful) factors are generally known as financial institution factors – these related to a particular monetary establishment. Examples of financial institution factors embody Chase Final Rewards, Capital One Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and American Categorical Membership Rewards. Airways and resort chains even have their very own completely different factors and miles (corresponding to American Airways and Hilton, talked about above). They’re typically extra restrictive in the best way they can be utilized.

Financial institution factors usually carry extra flexibility (corresponding to redeeming for money, transferring to a lot of journey companions, and so on.), whereas airline and resort factors usually should be redeemed straight with the resort / airline on which you earned them. Exceptions exist for each of those guidelines, however they supply a useful framework for understanding that not all factors and miles are created equally.

For our total suggestions on one of the best rewards bank cards, take a look at our high journey bank cards information.

earn factors and miles

Bank cards

There are quite a few methods to earn factors and miles and ranging methods for various individuals. Maybe essentially the most generally mentioned technique is through bank cards – each by incomes introductory bonuses (additionally known as sign-up bonuses or welcome bonuses) and with ongoing spending. Utilizing bank cards is our most well-liked technique for incomes 1000’s of factors and miles as a result of you possibly can earn them fairly shortly and at a comparatively low price.

The truth is, many playing cards provide bonuses which might be price greater than $ 1,000. All it’s a must to do is open the cardboard and meet the minimal spending necessities. It's as straightforward as that.

(Photograph by Wyatt Smith)


It’s also possible to earn factors and miles the old style means by flying with sure airways or staying at sure lodges. For instance, you possibly can rack up a major variety of rewards factors by buying flights on United Airways (and flying them) and reserving paid resort stays at Hyatt-brand lodges. This represents the best technique to earn miles and factors, nevertheless it additionally implies that your balances will improve extra slowly. All it is advisable to do is have your loyalty quantity connected to your ticket and also you’ll earn miles.

The foremost U.S. airline applications are Southwest Speedy Rewards, American Airways AAdvantage, United Mileage Plus, Delta SkyMiles, Alaska Mileage Plan and JetBlue TrueBlue.

Flyers used to earn miles based mostly on the variety of miles flown, however now most rewards applications dole out miles based mostly on the price of a ticket. Alaska’s Mileage Plan is the final main airline to award miles based mostly on distance flown.

Staying in lodges

Along with incomes miles by flying, you may as well earn factors by staying at main resort chains. You’ll get loyalty factors for each greenback you spend at a property, which incorporates the price of the room and incidentals like room service or a spa remedy. So long as your loyalty quantity is connected to the reservation, you’ll earn factors in your keep that can be utilized towards future free nights. To make sure that you earn resort factors, you will need to e-book straight by way of the resort’s web site and never a web-based journey company (OTA) like or Expedia. Reserving by way of an OTA will usually disqualify you from incomes loyalty factors with a resort.

A number of the main resort chains with points-earning loyalty applications are World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards.

Eating and buying portals

Many loyalty applications additionally provide extra partnership applications the place you possibly can earn miles and factors. For instance, you may join AAdvantage Eating to earn American Airways miles by eating at collaborating eating places. Or you possibly can rack up miles shortly by buying on-line and utilizing a buying portal (clicking by way of a hyperlink earlier than arriving at your supposed on-line buying vacation spot).

These are each nice alternatives to earn extra miles and factors by making purchases you deliberate to make anyway. They don’t price something to affix and it’s straightforward to click on by way of a buying portal or hyperlink your rewards bank card to an airline’s eating program.

The place and what your factors and miles can get you

And now, the enjoyable half. Over the previous 5 years, my spouse and I’ve visited greater than 30 nations on six continents. We’ve flown in enterprise class and top notch (and coach) and stayed at some completely unimaginable lodges. The most effective half is that the overwhelming majority of those travels had been funded by miles and factors. We’ve taken luxurious holidays that may usually prices tens of 1000’s for simply pennies on the greenback.

So how will you redeem your factors and miles for unimaginable journey experiences like these (with out breaking the financial institution)? You’ve a number of choices:

Award journey

The primary possibility – which we extremely suggest – is to redeem your miles and factors with resort and airline companions for what is usually known as award journey. Award journey refers to any resort keep or flight that’s paid for primarily through the use of miles or factors straight with the airline or resort chain. For instance, you possibly can redeem 5,000 World of Hyatt factors for a free night time at dozens of Class 1 Hyatt properties across the globe. Voilà – your first award keep.


Utilizing resort factors could make your dream trip come true. For instance, you possibly can keep in an overwater villa on the Park Hyatt Maldives (which usually prices $ 1,000 + an evening) for simply 30,000 Hyatt factors.

Sufficient of the fundamentals – how do I redeem my factors and miles to remain in lodges like this? (Photograph by Maridav / Shutterstock)

Wish to stretch your factors for an extended keep? With that very same 30,000 factors, you possibly can keep in a Class 1 Hyatt resort for six nights. A lower-category resort won’t be as luxurious as one within the Maldives or on Bora Bora, however having resort factors can prevent cash irrespective of the place you keep.

Between Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG – all chains with strong rewards applications – there are almost 20,000 properties across the globe. From luxurious beachside resorts to lodges in large cities to roadside motels on a household street journey, there are alternatives for every type of journeys. Usually, the nicer (and costlier) the resort, the extra factors it would price you.

Additionally bank cards provide perks like free-night certificates for simply holding the cardboard. With the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Categorical, you possibly can redeem a free-weekend-night certificates every cardmember 12 months at any resort world wide. Sure, even on the gorgeous new Waldorf Astoria Maldives, the place rooms can go for $ 2,000 + an evening.


Airline miles can take you everywhere in the world and are an effective way to economize on a visit. You'll get essentially the most bang to your buck by redeeming airline miles for business-class and first-class flights, however utilizing miles to fly in financial system class is a good possibility too.

Do you need to fly like these with elite standing? You possibly can redeem simply 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta One Suites from the U.S. to Europe. These tickets usually price a number of thousand {dollars}. Or Use 70,000 Alaska miles to fly wherever in Asia on Cathay Pacific’s wonderful first-class product – the place you’ll be sipping costly champagne and snacking on caviar 30,000 toes within the air. Worldwide first-class tickets can generally price greater than $ 10,000.

Use simply 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta One Suites between the U.S. and Europe. (Photograph by Zach Honey)

If you wish to stretch your factors additional, there are many nice redemptions on the market too. You possibly can take short-haul American Airways flights for as little as 6,000 British Airways Avios. Are you a United Airways flyer? Use as few as 6,500 Avianca LifeMiles to e-book United flights throughout the U.S. Confused about utilizing one airline’s miles on one other service? We’ll tackle that under.

Financial institution factors and award journey

You possibly can earn the Hyatt factors wanted for a keep by way of any of the choices mentioned above (resort stays, bank card spending, and so on.) or you may as well switch your financial institution factors (our favourite factors) into resort and airline currencies based mostly on particular partnerships . For instance, Chase Final Rewards are extraordinarily helpful as a result of they are often redeemed straight by way of the Chase journey reserving portal (extra on that under) or transferred to different loyalty applications corresponding to Hyatt and United – after which redeemed from there. So if a traveler desires to plan an award keep at a Hyatt however doesn’t have sufficient Hyatt factors, it's attainable to switch Chase Final Rewards (at a 1: 1 ratio) right into a Hyatt account after which e-book a keep.

Listed below are our guides on the key transferable factors currencies and their journey companions: American Categorical Membership Rewards, Chase Final Rewards, Capital One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and Citi ThankYou.

Most of those financial institution factors switch to journey companions at a 1: 1 ratio – so 1 Chase level = 1 United mile, and 1 Hyatt level = 1 Southwest level. You possibly can switch Amex factors to 22 companions, so 1 Amex level will be was 1 Avianca mile, 1 Delta SkyMile, or 1 Aeroplan mile, and so on. Nevertheless there are some exceptions to this rule. Amex factors usually switch to Hilton at 1: 2 ratio and most Capital One miles switch to companions a 2: 1.5 ratio.

For concepts on the varieties of journeys you possibly can e-book together with your factors, take a look at one of the best methods to make use of Chase factors, one of the best use of American Categorical factors, nice methods to make use of Hyatt factors or one of the best use of American Airline miles.

Paid journey

Though transferring factors is usually essentially the most profitable, it may also be barely restrictive and generally complicated. That's why sure applications additionally permit you to redeem factors straight by way of a financial institution portal – such because the Chase journey portal. As an alternative of transferring to journey companions, you possibly can redeem Chase Final Rewards straight at Chase at a ratio of 1 level to 1 cent (1: 1) – with some playing cards providing a 25% or 50% bonus on the worth of your factors. So for folk with the Chase Sapphire Most well-liked Card, you possibly can redeem 10,000 Chase Final Rewards factors for $ 125 price of journey. Portals usually embody almost any flight or resort you need to e-book, so the pliability right here will be extremely helpful.

For those who want to earn money again as a substitute of factors and miles, there are nice bank cards to help a cash-back technique. (Photograph by Atstock Productions / Shutterstock)

Money again

Different banks and applications provide what are primarily cash-back erasers, which means you redeem your factors to wipe out costs made in your journey bank card. For instance, the Capital One Journey Eraser provides you the flexibility to redeem factors at a worth of 1 cent per level to erase journey costs made to your Capital One bank card. These factors aren't fairly as helpful, however their simplicity is hard to beat. Merely e-book your journey (flight, automobile rental, resort, and so on.) after which erase the cost together with your factors as a substitute of paying off your bank card with money.

For individuals who need simplicity above all else, bank cards that earn money again generally is a compelling possibility. How does money again work? Some cash-back bank cards provide a flat-rate rebate on all purchases (as much as 2% money again; 1% once you purchase, plus 1% as you pay with the Citi® Double Money Card) and make your accounting straightforward. Spend $ 1,000 monthly on varied purchases in your 2% cash-back card and also you’ll earn $ 20 again.

Money-back playing cards additionally provide large welcome bonuses – you possibly can earn $ 300 after you spend $ 3,000 on purchases throughout the first three months of account opening with the Capital One® Savor® Money Rewards Credit score Card. The Financial institution of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ bank card provides 50,000 bonus factors after you spend a minimum of $ 3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, and people 50,000 factors will be redeemed for $ 500 in money again.

Utilizing airline miles on companion airways

Many airways are companions in airline alliances. Though it sounds difficult, it’s essential to know as a result of utilizing airline companions and alliances to your benefit is the place you will get essentially the most bang to your buck (or miles). Mainly, you need to use airline miles from one program to fly on any of the airways in its alliance. As an illustration, you need to use Alaska miles not solely to fly Alaska Airways, but in addition to fly any of its companion airways together with British Airways, Singapore Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and extra.

Why is that this essential? As a result of you possibly can leverage particular person airline applications to benefit from one of the best award chart.

As an illustration, you need to use simply 50,000 Alaska miles to e-book a one-way business-class flight from the U.S. to Asia on Cathay Pacific. These tickets can simply price greater than $ 6,000. And why would you need to e-book by way of Alaska Airways? As a result of Cathay Pacific’s personal Asia Miles program costs 85,000 miles and American Airways (additionally a companion of Cathay Pacific) costs 70,000 miles.

Cathay Pacific enterprise class on the Airbus A350. (Photograph by Zach Honey)

You’ll need to familiarize your self with these alliances and their companion airways. Under are the three main alliances and a few of the airways which might be in them. Make sure that to learn our full information on airline alliances and journey companions.

  • Oneworld (American Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qatar and extra)
  • SkyTeam (Delta Air Traces, Air France, Korean, Aeroméxico and extra)
  • Star Alliance (United Airways, Lufthansa, Avianca, Air Canada and extra)

Why bank cards are key

You could have seen that a lot of this text (and the world of factors and miles on the whole) is targeted on utilizing, buying and leveraging your bank cards. That's as a result of bank cards (together with airline bank cards and resort bank cards) are key on the subject of incomes (and sometimes redeeming) factors and miles as shortly and strategically as attainable.

Actually, bank cards can be harmful if not managed correctly. That's why we suggest you solely join or use bank cards should you can handle your cash responsibly. The curiosity you pay on a bank card will outweigh the worth of any factors earned, so at all times pay your invoice on time and in full.

(Photograph by Wyatt Smith)

Clever bank card utilization can really be good to your credit score rating and total monetary well-being. That's as a result of utilizing credit score responsibly over the long run really builds belief with lenders and reveals them that you’re a dependable borrower. The truth is, my credit score rating has gone up almost 100 factors since I began within the factors and miles recreation seven years in the past. Many staffers on the Million Mile Secrets and techniques group have dozens of bank cards and credit score scores within the 800s.

The fact is that the majority of us like to make use of bank cards for the perks, buy safety, nice customer support and different journey advantages. We suggest that you just select playing cards that supply essentially the most helpful sign-up bonuses and return on purchases which you’d make anyway. Plus should you worth advantages like airport lounge entry and resort elite standing, bank cards can grant you entry to that that too.

Even signing up for one bank card and utilizing it strategically to your typical month-to-month purchases can have you ever properly in your technique to an incredible journey in a matter of months.

Finest bank cards for factors and miles freshmen

For those who're prepared to join your first (or your subsequent) bank card, the place must you begin? Listed below are a number of suggestions which might be (typically talking) a fantastic for any newbie:

The Chase Sapphire Most well-liked is our favourite total newbie card due to its flexibility, accessibility and long-term worth.

It’s also possible to take a look at different lists of our favourite bank cards:

That is under no circumstances an exhaustive record, however I hope it's place to begin to discover a card that is likely to be match for you. If in case you have particular ideas or questions, please drop them within the feedback part and we (or our implausible readers) will attempt to assist.

What to do now

Listed below are a number of extra points-and-miles professional suggestions for anybody getting began. First, join any and all loyalty applications accessible to you. For instance, signing up for resort rewards applications (corresponding to Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and so on.) is free. So even should you're unsure when your subsequent Marriott resort keep will probably be, join a Marriott Rewards account so that you're ready to start out incomes factors.

To start out, you may contemplate signing up for:

(Photograph by Wyatt Smith)

Extra importantly, take all the above info – about all issues miles and factors – and start to dream about the way you may redeem your factors. Incomes loyalty miles is enjoyable, however the redemption facet must be the driving drive behind anybody’s involvement in our passion. Choose a vacation spot (or a objective) after which align your technique to satisfy that objective. Do you at all times dream of a safari in Africa together with your children? Plan for it! Is a keep on the seashores of Thailand your concept of ​​a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon? It's achievable!

So, to wrap it up:

  1. Set a journey objective.
  2. Work out what factors it is advisable to get to your vacation spot and ensure your credit score rating is in fine condition.
  3. Plan the way you’ll earn these factors (by way of bank cards, buying portals, and so on.).
  4. Redeem your factors and miles without cost flights and lodges.
  5. Take pleasure in your journey.

For some inspiration on how you need to use your factors for epic journeys, learn our guides on one of the best use of miles and factors:

Backside line

Studying the ins and outs of the points-and-miles world will be daunting however this text offers you the muse it is advisable to dive in, be taught as you go and take the following step towards your journey targets.

For all of us right here at Million Mile Secrets and techniques, the world of miles and factors has modified our lives. We hope that will help you expertise the identical unimaginable adventures and recollections we've had. So what are you ready for? What else can we do to assist?

Editorial be aware: We're the Million Mile Secrets and techniques group. And we're pleased with our content material, opinions and evaluation, and of our reader's feedback. These haven’t been reviewed, authorized or endorsed by any of the airways, lodges, or bank card issuers which we regularly write about. And that's simply how we prefer it! 🙂

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